This is a just my response to your comments, not necessarily a rebuttal on every point.
1. The Exiles interpreted the desolation of Jerusalem etc. as the outcome of centuries of warnings that disobedience would see this happen. Not as the result of a single prophecy by Jeremiah.
The 70 years is related to the land making up for lost sabbaths, specific to 430 years. Ezekiel 4 mentions 390 years collectively for the 10 tribes (39 years each) and 40 years for Judah. Add 390 to 40 for a collective 430 years. Then divide 430 by the agri-sabbaths the Jews were supposed to keep. This is 430 years of error or not keeping sabbaths. There were two kinds of sabbaths; 7-year and the jubilee, 50 year. Look what happens when we divided these sabbaths into 430.
430 / 7 = 61.4
430 / 50 = 8.6
61.4 and 8.6 = 70
The way I'm seeing it is that it was more about the LAND than exile or servitude. For the land to pay back the 70 years of sabbaths the people had to be removed and they had to be somewhere in the meantime. That place was Babylon until the 70 years were up. So the 70 years of servitude are in direct connection with the 70 years the land pays back its sabbaths. The servitude for 70 years of the last deportees is just rather incidental to the main purpose of the 70 years, which is the land lying desolate, both north and south.
2. Their Scripture says the 70 years was the period of Babylonian domination over the region, and this resulted from the Lord's decision to make Nebuchadnezzar his servant for that period. At the end of that period he (Babylon) would receive its punishment.
Well if there were actually 70 years involved, or even if round it off to 66 years, those domination years for Babylon would have zero to do with the land paying back its sabbaths for 70 years after the last deportation. So if Babylon domination is 70 years, then great.
3. Scripture does not say there was any need for the land to be devoid of people or domestic animals.
ROLF!! If people are in the land they would be planting crops, I presume. So removing the people out of the land is absolutely necessary. Sorry. One goes with the other.
4. Archaeology provides positive evidence that the land of Judah remained occupied throughout the 70 years of Babylonian domination. This is true of its neighbours' lands too, and according to the MT, they received the same sentence as Judah.
I would appreciate some references from you to discuss this further. But BAR published an article a while back about Ashkelon and it confirmed there was a 70-80 year period of total desolation just prior to the Persian Period. I used to have a membership that allowed access to their archives, so I'm not sure I can get that reference but I will try. Right now.... hang on!
This is the article, but as suspected they want you to purchase this copy to get the full article.
I did find the quote I wanted from the article though:
Lawrence Stager writes:
"Archaeology cannot be so precise as to date the destruction of Ashkelon to
604 BCE, but the Babylonian Chronicles leaves leaves little doubt that the
late seventh-century destruction we found all over the site, followed by a
75-80 year gap in occupation until the Persian Period, was the work of
Nebuchadnezzar in 604 BCE."
OKAY. We have to step back from this statement. The actual archaeology for Ashkelon shows a 75-80 year GAP in occupation after the destruction by Babylon. Of course, if you use the popular timeline and Cyrus comes around in 538 BCE, you have to back this 75-80 years earlier to 604-618, which occurs even before the alleged reign of Nebuchadnezzar begins. Fuirther, the Bible clearly says Ashkelon would not be destroyed before Jerusalem was. Jerusalem was the first to suffer at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar's rath. Jeremiah 25:
20 and all the mixed company, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Phi·lis´tines and Ash´ke·lon and Ga´za and Ek´ron and the remnant of Ash´dod; 21 E´dom and Mo´ab and the sons of Am´mon; 22 and all the kings of Tyre and all the kings of Si´don and the kings of the island that is in the region of the sea; 23 and De´dan and Te´ma and Buz and all those with hair clipped at the temples; 24 and all the kings of the Arabs and all the kings of the mixed company who are residing in the wilderness; 25 and all the kings of Zim´ri and all the kings of E´lam and all the kings of the Medes; 26 and all the kings of the north who are near and far away, one after the other, and all the [other] kingdoms of the earth that are on the surface of the ground; and the king of She´shach himself will drink after them.
27 “And you must say to them, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said: “Drink and get drunk and puke and fall so that YOU cannot get up because of the sword that I am sending among YOU .”’ 28 And it must occur that in case they refuse to take the cup out of your hand to drink, you must also say to them, ‘This is what Jehovah of armies has said: “Y OU will drink without fail. 29 For, look! it is upon the city upon which my name is called that I am starting off in bringing calamity, and should YOU yourselves in any way go free of punishment?”’
So there is a conflict here. Per the Bible, if Jerusalem falls in year 19 and the 70 years begins in year 23, then the fall and destruction of Ashkelon would have to be sometime between year 20 and year 23. This is where the 75-80 years of confirmed non-occupation at Ashkelon would come in from year 525 BCE to 455 BCE. So it would be fun, under a seperate topic to look at all the most recent excavations and see what cities have confirmed desolation and which are thought to have had continuous occupation. But I think this needs to be specific, especially since you brought it up, right? We can start with the reference you had in mind. Thanks.
5. There was only the need for Judah and its neighbours to serve Babylon during its 70 years of regional dominance.
Well, that may be, but as I said, the focus was on the desolation of the land and paying back the sabbaths for 70 years during which time the land has to be completely desolate, with "no one passing through." Allow me:
JEREMIAH 9: 11 And I will make Jerusalem piles of stones, the lair of jackals; and the cities of Judah I shall make a desolate waste, without an inhabitant.
12 “Who is the man that is wise, that he may understand this, even the one to whom the mouth of Jehovah has spoken, that he may tell it? On what account should the land actually perish, be actually burned like the wilderness without anyone passing through?”
NO. Again, you're focussing on the servitude and dominance but the 70 years for the land to be desolate is what Jeremiah's prophecy is about. A land totally desolate with no one passing through...for a full 70 years. If Babylon can manage 70 years of dominance over the nations, great. It has NOTHING to do with this 70 years of land desolation beginning with the last deportation. You seem kind of confused over the desolation of the land thing, but JWs have this as a reference to the 70 years since long ago. It's common JW doctrine.
6. The WTS says the "70 years" began when Gedaliah's murderers went from the town of Mizpah into Egypt, because this emptied the whole land. Yet it does not end the 70 years when the people returned. The WTS waits until the people had settled into their respective towns, following which the WTS waits until they met at the ruins of the temple some time later.
The WTS is in error about some details here. For one, Gedaliah is not killed the same year Jerusalem falls, but the next. He is killed in the 20th year not the 19th. So the land was still being harvested of summer fruits the following year. The actual work begins in the 7th month, which is key to the "70 weeks" prophecy. Further, they have to fudge the prophecy a bit since the return has to occur in the 1st of Cyrus and that happens per the timeline in 538 BCE, not 537 BCE. So they claim the "decree" was made during hs first year but the actual building begins in his 2nd year. Of course, that doesn't work. When the chronology is corrected, then 455 BCE is the 1st of Cyrus. The Jews are released and setting into their homes by the 5th month and begin specifically to rebuild in the 7th month. This is necessary to fulfill the prophecy since Jesus has to die EXACTLY in the middle of the week, meaning after a 3.5 year ministry. So the ministry must begin the same month the Jews begin to rebuild, which was the 7th month. So there is no problem with harmonizing the chronology with the prophecy when 455 BCE is the 1st of Cyrus. So I have to just disagree with the details by the witnesses here. They do not represent my research or conclusions.
7. The WTS is unable to prove the BCE year that Exiles first returned.
Well, too bad for them. I don't have the same chronology as they do. My chronology dates the fall of Jerusalem in 529 not 607, the 70 years beginning in year 23, not year 18, the fall of Babylon in 462 BCE not 539 BCE, and the return of the Jews in the 1st of Cyrus in 455 BCE, not 538-537 BCE. So their chronology problems are their own with little to do with me and mine.
8. Lars, your views are irrelevant since they are not held by JWs, although they do appear to be based on similar fallacious assumptions (year/day; Daniel 4; Neb's madness; eschatology; date-setting; exclusivity; etc.) and they ignore Pauline soteriology. Also, I gain the impression that, like the WTS, you decry the secular records, yet rely on secular records to provide the BCE dates.
Noted. But none of this changes the land must pay back 70 years of sabbaths and thus remain desolate, which is the context of your topic, right?
Anyway, thanks for the review. Your comments speak more about what you believe than what I believe.